Saucony Kinvara TR Trail Shoe: First Run Thoughts

Saucony Kinvara TR yellowIf you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time you know that I’m a big fan of the Saucony Kinvara running shoe – it’s the shoe that has carried me through my last two marathons, and is a personal favorite for long runs on the road. Lately, however, I’ve been doing a lot of my runs in lightweight trail shoes as I’m working on reviews of the Brooks Pure Grit and Merrell Mix Master 2 (I’m liking both a lot!). Thus, it was with a fair amount of excitement that I received a package today from Running Warehouse containing a pair of the new Saucony Kinvara TR (these were a personal purchase). The Kinvara TR is being marketed as the trail running version of Saucony’s extremely popular lightweight road shoe, and it’s one of the most eagerly awaited shoe releases of this summer (at least it was for me!).

My excitement to try out the Kinvara TR quickly gave way to skepticism when I opened the box. The shoes look fantastic from an aesthetic standpoint, but when looking at the last shape it has a distinct “bullet-shape” that I know from past experience does not work too well for me (e.g., in the Saucony Grid Type A4). The forefoot looked to be only a tad wider than the midfoot, and the forefoot came to a distinct pointed taper as the forefoot angles inward on both sides (see image below). I like a shoe that hugs my heel and midfoot closely, and that opens up into a spacious forefoot. This shoe did not look to fit that mold.

Saucony Kinvara TR Top

Putting the shoes on my feet did not provide any reassurance – they are definite toe-squeezers, which is a huge red flag for me. I pulled the shoes off and took out the insoles, and was comforted by the fact that the inserts were fairly well-cushioned, a bit more-so in the heel than in the forefoot. I’ve found with many shoes that swapping out a factory insole with a very thin one from another shoe can make a world of difference when it comes to fit (I prefer older Nike Free insoles or the fantastic insoles from the Skechers Go Bionic). Swapping out the insoles made the shoes more comfortable, and I decided to give them a go on a run (it may be worth trying to size up 1/2 size if you buy these shoes).

As I stood on the road in front of my house, I thought really hard about whether I wanted to go back in and package the shoes back up for a return. I was that concerned about how the forefoot fit felt. But, recalling that the Nike Free 3.0 v4 felt similar and loosened up a bit as it broke in, I decided to go for it.

Saucony Kinvara TR side

Turns out it was a good idea. With the swapped insole and loose lacing up front, the shoes felt progressively better as I ran in them. A bit of break-in really seemed to help. The fit is still off – sloppy in the midfoot and too tapered up front, but it’s tolerable on the run. I ran 7.5 miles in them, mostly on roads for today (it was a speedwork day, ran strides and 4x1200m intervals in them), and they handled the asphalt just fine. They have a fairly substantial rock plate, and on the few stretches that I ran on gravel and rutty asphalt they provided plenty of rock protection. The outsole looks to be very durable, and feel underfoot is firmer than the road Kinvara.

Saucony Kivara TR Sole yellow

I plan to get some trail miles on these shoes soon, maybe tomorrow, but my first impression is that the Saucony Peregrine is a closer trail sibling to the road Kinvara than this shoe. The fit feels very different, and hopefully will be improved in future iterations as I really like most other aspects of this shoe. The sole is solid, and at 3mm drop (18mm heel, 15mm forefoot) should appeal to those who like more minimal shoes. Weight is 8.9oz in size 9, which is comparable to other shoes I like in the lightweight trail category. But, if I had to run a trail 50K tomorrow I’d probably go with the Merrell Mix Master 2 since it fits my foot almost perfectly. Who knows, things may change with additional miles, but my initial run in the Kinvara TR did not vault it to the top of my lightweight trail running list.

Have you tried the Kinvara TR? What are your thoughts on the fit? Leave a comment!

The Saucony Kinvara TR is available for purchase at Running Warehouse.

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.

Comments

  1. I think this shoe last is fantastic, the best shoe last that I have ever tried. Having an overly roomy toebox is fine when running on non-technical terrain, but that’s not what this shoe is designed for. When bombing downhill on the technical Utah terrain a semi-tapered fit in the toebox is required in order to keep ones toes from smashing into the end of the shoe – this shoe is perfect.

    I used to fret a lot about the width of a performance toebox as well and I would blame smashed pinky toes on the shoe, as I advanced as a runner however I’ve realized that it is not the shoe which causes me to smash my pinky toe, it was just me landing clumsily. This shoe might not be the best for those who step on their toes or who are prone to developing blisters on their toes, it is my opinion that this shoe is better suited for competitive runners. The front of the pack trail runners have a finesse to the way that they run and they much prefer, and require, a snug fit like the Kinvara TR provides. Just enough room in the toebox to wiggle ones toes around a little but not enough room to move, slide, or smash in any direction.

    The Kinvara TR is phenomenal – the shoe is extremely well thought out for competitive or fast running in the mountains. The rubber compound is nice and sticky, the lugs are low perform very well, minimal cushioning, mostly via eva in the insole but with sufficient protection, a tight midfoot and tapered forefoot, a gusseted tongue, a rubber toecap, tightly woven dual layered mesh on the upper, supper soft interior with an awesome solution to the traditional heel counter, and great overlays. Saucony did a fantastic job with this shoe. The rockplate is a bit stiff out of the box but it loosens up after 30 miles or so.

  2. Rachel Piotraschke says:

    Just out of curiosity, have you ever tried the Saucony Xodus or are they too much shoe for you? I think they are at least nominally 4mm drop, and pretty cushy, but I prefer a wide forefoot and a closer fit in the rest of the shoe, and I ADORE the fit on those… (I wear a D width so I get the men’s)

  3. I just received my TRs from runningwarehouse. My flatish feet are very sensitive to arch support, and I’m a frequent complainer of the arch bump in the original Kinvara. I’m happy to report that the TR’s arch support is far less prominent than the Kinvara I. I still feel it, but I don’t think it will cause me pain. However, I am wary of how inflexible the forefoot is. That might be a deal killer, but at least I’m considering giving them a chance instead of boxing them back up immediately.

    Anyone had a chance to compare the flexibility of the Kinvara TR to the Mix Master and/or S-Lab Sense?

    • Trail shoes generally don’t have flexible forefoots…primarily due to the presence of a ‘rockplate’ or firmer EVA in the forefoot to serve the same purpose – protection from stone bruising.

      Mix Master is more flexible, but then again it lacks a ‘rockplate’ and doesn’t offer much protection from debris-laden trails. No experience with the S-Lab Sense.

    • I made it two miles before my achilles starting hurting too bad. I need more flexibility in the forefoot. Look for some size 10s on Ebay. The arch, however, was not a problem at least.

      • Your achilles aching has nothing to do with a shoe’s forefoot flexibility…it’s more likely because of the 4mm offset & less cushioned-heel. A lower offset & thus less cushioning in the heel puts greater strain on the achilles. There’s a buildup period….ironically, the whole reason that running shoes became so heavily cushioned w/12mm+ heels in the 1st place is because of how much more common achilles injuries use to be in the running community.

  4. I, like you, stress the points of low offset minimal shoes. Run POSE. Love the Kinvara but have recently turned to the Brooks. Pure flow gives me an added 150mi. Kinvara goes flat too fast. Very dissapointed with the trail version. Too stiff, blisters and when trying to snug down the heel major hotspots. Lacing is bad. These shoes need an overhaul. Brooks Pure Grit is my shoe Gem. Low offset, rigidity you expect from a TR shoe but major cushion. Now I know you run minimal. Probably more than me. I need the cushioning. So trying to find a low offset shoe that offers cushion is a task. It’s my opinion that minimal shoes have gone to a marketing extreme. I run 50mi a week, still hold a sub 3hr marathon at 41 and wouldn’t dare put something so close to the ground on my feet.

  5. I just picked up a pair of these today; since the Running Warehouse is in my hometown, I was able to go try on a few pairs of shoes. My go to shoe for the last few months has been the NB MR Zero, and I love them, but have been hiking and jogging trails, and the Road Zeros, I’m afraid, will likely get chewed up pretty quickly. I tried these, Trail Gloves, and the MT110 (used to have MT101s, loved them), and found these to be the most comfortable out of the box – The last on the 110 fit my foot better, but there is some weird kind of bump in the heel to forefoot transition that I didn’t like. Oddly, I wear an 11.5 in all the NB shoes I’ve tried, but felt the Trail Gloves felt best in an 11, while the TRs felt best in a 12 – the TR felt too narrow in an 11.5. The difference between 11.5 and 12 in these TRs is phenomenal, night and day difference. I definitely think the soles are going to need a little breaking in, but all in all, I ran 6 miles today, and they felt pretty good. I am sure they will be great for what I want them for, wihich is a mix of trail running and hiking/backpacking. Like one of the previous posters said, it’s not a shoe for minimalists, per se, but I think that people that are competitive and are used to XC flats will love these shoes for training in, I have Nike’s Waffle Racer Spikeless XC racers, and can tell by feel that I’ll be much more comfortable running my week in the Kinvara’s. I’ll save the Waffle Racer’s for um… racing.

  6. matthewdonavan401 says:

    But we all know that there is more to running gear than running shoes. I own an iPhone and I needed one of those iphone rechargeable cases. It really works.

  7. Robert Hutt says:

    Thanks for another fine review. I am a little surprised it didn’t flr closely mimic the overall shape of the Kinvara….hmmmm. I will probably hold off on these.

  8. Alex Bridgeforth says:

    Besides our awesome Twitter Convo Earlier (Which I am totally stoked about, its like talking to a celebrity) I can’t wait to put on the shoe if at the least to know its not for me. I am looking for the “it” tech/minimal trail shoe and the S-Lab Sense is extremely close.

  9. William Arnette says:

    These are not the kinvaras you are looking for

  10. I opened my box from Running Warehouse and had the same thoughts about the fit. I was hoping the last would be more similar to New Balance’s NL-1. I am not sure whether to box them up and send them back or not.

    • Pete Larson says:

      I came really close to boxing them up. They did break in a bit on the run, but without swapping the insole don’t think I could have run in them. Major toe squeeze with the factory insole. My initial take is that there are better options in this category right now.

      —-
      Pete Larson’s Web Links:
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      • After a solid couple of hours on them today (a good mix of up, technical down, and dirt roads/roads) I think there is at least one bright spot: They are incredibly nimble on the downhills with amazing traction, probably best in category. I left the forefoot effectively unlaced and that seemed to help the toe pinch but my feet, ankles, and calves felt a little spastic from being so crammed.

        Alex – the problem with the 110 isn’t the last but the built up lateral outsole. I don’t think it is any coincidence that the shoe “designer”, Tony K, battled posterior tibial tendinitis all year with the way the shoe forces your pronation. Hopefully the 1010 solves both that problem and performs similarly to the TR with a better fit.

    • Alex Bridgeforth says:

      I can’t stand the NL-1 Last in the MT110, I’ve ranted and raved that I was almost depressed about how the Lateral Part of the shoe is more solid and just makes you Meta tarsel under your pinkie toe feel like its broke the whole time you you run. So i hope I like the Kinvara TR but don’t know how it’ll hold up to the $200 Salomon S-Lab Sense.

  11. Oskar Booth says:

    I ran a 24k trail run straight out of the box, with minimal complaints. However I agree with the midfoot being a bit off. The toebox is OK for my feet, but there doesnt seem to be enough taper in the midfoot to provide that sock like feel that i was hoping for. The rockplate seems a bit too serious for a ‘lightweight’ trail shoe. I was also a little dissapointed when I put these on the scales. They were only 11 grams lighter than the Saucony Peregrine, which feels like a much more robust trail shoe. I think these should have aimed to be a similar weight to the Kinvara (road) but they are approx 60g heavier per shoe. Still a comfortable ride, great flexibility, low profile and low drop- but not quite ticking all the boxes. I am also unable to run sockless in these due to the stitching at the base of the tounge rubbing on the top of my toes. These also perform well on the road.

  12. I love these shoes and just bought a second pair. I’m not much of a runner and have pretty messed up feet w almost no arch… usually go for more support, but I find these much more comfortable – esp on a rough trail than the peregrine last (ran a 50k last year on really nasty trail in outlaws, which are/were the mid-top version of the peregrine). It looks like the toebox should have no room (I have fred flinstone trapezoidal feet and need room), but I was really surprised at the space.

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